So your ‘baby’ is starting Year 7 – but are they ready? And are you ready to be a secondary-school parent with all the new challenges that brings?
#BeSchoolReady for Year 7 with our Top Tips to help mum, dad and your child.
Keep key dates somewhere safe
Whether you prefer to embrace technology and pin reminders in your phone, or you prefer a physical diary, neither may be the best way of remembering the all-important dates. A post-it note or a timetable under a fridge magnet are great ways of reminding you of what’s coming up. Schools are increasingly mindful about this transitional phase, with teachers taking considerable time and care to ensure that children know what to expect and are equipped through student passports, school visits and try-out or induction days. But if you make sure you know when these introductory sessions occur and clear the calendar to attend, there’ll be much less panic when September comes.
It’s harder to keep engaged at secondary school and get to know other parents. There aren’t as many mums and dads gathering at the school gates. It may be that your child’s newfound independence sees them travelling further to school and taking public transport or the school bus. None of this means you can’t keep engaged with what’s happening at school – you just have to use your time a little more creatively. Most PTAs have websites or Facebook pages where you can remain part of the discussion and keep up to date with planned activities. Don’t let your child’s embarrassment put you off: kids do seem proud if mum’s team beats the teachers’ table at the PTA Quiz night or dad is organising the BBQ at the school fair. Join in and lend your support! Check out our advice on getting involved at school.
Taking buses and trains on their own is a big step for many. Your child will feel far more confident if they’re not facing the journey for the first time on their first morning at secondary school. They have enough to think about without the added worry of getting lost.
Talk up the school with your child, even if it wasn’t your first choice for them. They need to know what an overwhelmingly positive experience it will be. We all love sharing horror stories, but now is not the time! Recall the good days, and tell your child about them!
Let them try on the school uniform before the big day so that there are no big surprises. Grandparents or other relatives may want to see them in their new uniform, but try not to make too big a deal out of it. You may need to get them used to an earlier wake-up time. Also, children at this age go through growth spurts, so don’t buy the uniform too far in advance, and don’t expect to get your money’s worth out of shirts, blouses or trousers.
Increase their independence
You’ll always have their back, but by the time your child leaves secondary school, they will be on the cusp of adulthood. The transition to secondary school is a great time to start encouraging their independence, in gentle steps at first. For example, you might trust them with solo trips to the letter box, or allow them collect the take-away food from a local restaurant. Show that you have confidence in them. Encourage your child to pack their bag (themselves) every evening from day one, to help avoid breakfast-time panic.
If your child has any health issues or specific needs, it is important to start talking to the school about this as early as possible. Provide staff with as much information as they need to build their understanding of your child and strong relationships from the off.
Once the new term starts
Allow them to be tired… and hungry!
It’s a major adjustment moving to secondary school. Your child is used to being the oldest in the playground. They’ll now be the youngest, and there will be intimidating near-adults in the years above. So they will need you to be at your most understanding and unruffled. They will also need you to provide a fully-stocked fridge! Check out Healthy Snack recipes from TV celebrities for more ideas on keeping them sated.
Create a homework station
Make sure your child can easily access a computer, colour printer, digital camera and craft materials. After-school homework clubs can help kids get into the homework habit and provide helpful resources. Organise a space at home specifically for your child to focus on study and store their books and stationery.
Keep their confidence up
Focus on what they have achieved and praise them. Are they getting good comments from particular teachers and enjoying some subjects more than others?
Don’t be concerned if their interests change
Secondary school introduces our children to a wide range of subjects from languages to sciences and the arts. An early interest in laboratory experiments may be replaced by a sudden keenness for historical facts and figures. At this time, your child is figuring out who they are and what they’re good at. Encourage enthusiasms, but allow space for wiggle room and change!
Encourage their friendships
Secondary school will introduce your children to a wider and different social circle, and from Year 7 children become much more focussed on friendships built out of shared interests. Encourage friends coming over for dinner, or working around collecting your child from a friend’s house as these friendships are forged.
Know how to keep them safe online
Your child may be keen to use Instagram or other social media to keep in touch with friends old and new. Discuss with them how to keep safe and happy online.
Encourage them to join in
There will be a much larger range of activities going on at secondary school, not just in terms of academic subjects, but with a range of after school clubs and extra-curricular activities. If your child is enthusiastic about something you don’t like the sound of, or is negative towards something you’ve always wanted to encourage, try to be understanding and accommodate their wishes.
Starting secondary school is a big step for kids and parents alike. #BeSchoolReady with our Top Tips.
Here are some other useful sources of information:
Be School Ready
Aware that parents can find starting school life a little daunting, we developed a 'Be School Ready' welcome magazine which was distributed to 100,000 parents of reception-aged children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland via 1,667 of our member PTAs. If you didn't receive the pack, don't worry, there are plenty of resources on our Be School Ready page, and we'll be adding more in the coming months to make sure you're ready and supported when term-time begins in September.
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